Often when I imagine you 
your wholeness cascades into many shapes. 
You run like a herd of luminous deer 
and I am dark, I am forest.

You are a wheel at which I stand, 
whose dark spokes sometimes catch me up, 
revolve me nearer to the center. 
Then all the work I put my hand to 
widens from turn to turn.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
Book of Hours I



J Cosmo Newbery said...

I really like the first verse. I struggle to fully grasp the second.

soubriquet said...

I think the second verse might be a victim of translation. Not that I'd ever know, given my inability to separate the umlauts from the glockenspiels.

I liked the first bit. And I like images of wheelery, gyres, axletrees, I like the idea of movement with fixity, orbit around a core.
But I try not to think about it, because then I think of the complex path I, as a tiny human, travel each day, pinned to the surface of a rotating globe which is itself spiralling in an approximately even orbit around a ball of burning chaos, which in turn is wandering around the universe... And then, we're on a wobbly axis. Both magnetically and rotationally. Now look what you've done, my poor head's spinning, and my body's wobbling.

No wonder Rainer Maria Rilke was so confusing, he'd probably stared into the wobblies for a few too many moments.

goatman said...

Now that reminds me of the joke where Sherlock Holmes and Watson go camping.

soubriquet said...

Ha, Goatman, is that the one where Holmes asks Watson: "What do you see, Watson?" "Stars, I see stars, Holmes, a great many of them"?


red dirt girl said...

The first verse is very popular and gets used muchly on the 'net. Both verses are pieces of a much larger poem.

Yes, Rilke's work is translated from the German AND French originals ... but he HAS BEEN translated countless times (b.1875 - d.1926) - so I tend to think that the translations, over time, have achieved some semblance of unity in the images and syntax.

The second verse reminds me of my FAVORITE poetic verse of all time from T.S. Elliot's Four Quartets Quartet I: Burnt Norton -

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

And the 'motion' of Rilke's second verse describes a sort of spiraling inward towards center, then a spiraling outward ...

oh right - Soub comments about this moving through space ...

I think I missed that joke, goatman - I really DO live under a rock. I never get allusions ... but hey, Soub's answer is pretty funny.


goatman said...

I really like the poem written there.
To me it describes the distance between two thoughts or the distance between breaths as that distance approaches zero ( an obscure calculus reference I know; but it fits.)

Soub called the joke, but I guess the prompt is for me:

Holmes and Watson were camping and Holmes asked Watson to look up and tell what that means. Watson looks up and says: "I see many points of light eons of distance away, and a vast silent emptyness between us. This means that we are but tiny struggling lives on an insignificant planet way out on the edge of a galaxy, alone and helpless."
No Watson, says Holmes, "it means that our tent has blown away".

red dirt girl said...

Hahahaaa goatman - I like those Watson / Holmes jokes ....

and I get the calculus reference. Calculus was actually my favorite math subject. Algebra confounded me but for some reason I could 'visualize' those infinite spaces toward zero in calculus!


red dirt girl said...


Hmmm ... I don't own a copy of the Four Quartets - what a great gift giving idea, hint hint hint hint ...


soubriquet said...

But I have a copy, and therefore its already yours.

red dirt girl said...

Soub ~ XXXXX!!